08 Feb 2020

Success for Honoka Hashimoto on Saturday 8th February in the Spanish city of Granada, the women’s singles title secured; the win highlights three pertinent facts.

The scenario is underlined that in the modern world a female defensive player can gain top honours at an international tournament, Japan has increasingly an awesome depth of talent and the ITTF Challenge Series opens doors.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Classic style, technically perfect and would you expect anything else from a player whose skills were honed in Japan?

Equally, it would seem to be a style in which the Land of the Rising Sun has great faith; note the name of 14 year old, Haruna Ojio, the runner up in the girls’ singles event at the NSDF World Junior Championships last December. She extols the skills.

For those of more advanced years, thinking back to the halcyon days of the 1960s, the view of many was that the age of the backspin player was resigned to history; in particular Honoka Hashimoto and Haruna Ojio are proving the theory from the era of their grandparents wrong.

Brink of selection

Familiar on the international stage, notably Honoka Hashimoto partnered Hitomi Sato in the women’s doubles event at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest but when team event selection is the subject on offer, she is on the brink and more likely to be a support act than a first choice player.

How many other countries would welcome her talents? Maybe China could manage without but would she not be an asset to any other nation in the world? A classic defender could well add an extra ingredient, even to powerful Asian outfits.

Proved worth

Undoubtedly at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments she has proved her worth and have those tournaments not provided an opportunity to develop her play? Is she not ever more secure in defence and ever more adept when attacking play is required? The steps may be small but they are vital, sporting contests are won by minimal margins.

Nobody can match her record at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments. Since January 2017 she has reached no less than nine women’s singles finals, winning twice; that may not sound a good record but consider the players against whom she has experienced defeat at the final hurdle.

The nemesis has always been a player from Asia, facing colleagues she has lost to each of Hina Hayata and Hitomi Sato on two occasions, once to Saki Shibata, once to Korea Republic’s Yang Haeun and once to a certain Chinese player named Liu Shiwen.

Conversely when facing European players in the title decider it has been success; in addition to today when beating Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin, in 2017 in Croatia she prevailed against Austria’s Sofia Polcanova.

Add doubles

Nine finals now add the women’s doubles. Partnering Hitomi Sato she has won five times, the runner up twice; in harness with Maki Shiomi, twice a winner, on one occasion a runner up.

Overall in a period of just over three years, Honoka Hashimoto has appeared in no less than 19 ITTF Challenge Series finals.

Defensive skills have prevailed time and again, it is a record no attacking player can match!

Challenge Series 2020 Spanish Open Honoka Hashimoto

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open